Have you been struggling with your mental health? Does your furry friend make everything more tolerable? You might qualify for an emotional support animal.
Emotional support animals can be beneficial for people with a variety of mental health conditions, but how do you know if you meet the ESA qualifications?
We’re here to talk about it. Read on to learn all about ESA requirements and more.
What Is An Emotional Support Animal?
An emotional support animal is an animal that lives with you to support your mental or emotional health. Emotional support animals are often referred to as comfort animals, mental health animals, or therapy animals. They’re similar to pets and your current pet can become an emotional support animal.
Many people mistakenly believe that emotional support animals qualify as service animals, but this isn’t the case. While the animal is helping you with your mental health, it doesn’t know specific tasks that help you with a specific disability.
Service animals are trained by professionals to respond to health emergencies or guide their owners.
This doesn’t mean that emotional support animals are less important. It just means that they don’t have the same protections under the ADA as service animals.
What Are The Basic ESA Qualifications?
So how do you know whether or not it’s appropriate for you to have an emotional support animal? It’s not as simple as it seems.
First, introspect. Why is it that you want the emotional support animal? Do you need the animal to support your mental health, or are you just trying to get into an apartment that doesn’t normally allow pets?
If you know that your pet fulfills a specific need, even if it doesn’t complete a “task,” it may mean that you’re ready to have an ESA.
You need to have a diagnosed mental health condition to get approval for an ESA. It’s unfortunate if you struggle to find mental health support in your area, but do your best to get an official diagnosis before you apply for an ESA certification.
Many emotional and mental health issues qualify for ESAs, and you can likely make a case for all of them as long as you can explain how the animal helps you.
Common conditions that get approval for emotional support animals are (among others):
- Various eating disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Personality disorders
It’s helpful to talk to your therapist or psychiatrist about whether or not they think that you can qualify. Most of the time, if they know that your pet improves your quality of life and overall emotional health, they’re likely to approve you or at least point you in the right direction.
Can Anyone Get An Emotional Support Animal?
Many people think that they’ll automatically get approval for an emotional support animal if they ask a doctor or therapist. This isn’t necessarily true, and that myth is harmful to people who do need their ESAs. It makes some landlords think that emotional support animals aren’t legitimate.
No qualified professional will accept every application for an emotional support animal. Remember that it’s their job to see if that “prescription” is right for you. If they think that you’re unwilling to seek out further mental health treatment or if you’re lying to get away with having your pet with you in places that it doesn’t belong, they won’t approve you.
You can try another doctor, but don’t assume that you’re entitled to an emotional support animal letter just because you want one.
Who Can Determine If I Qualify?
So if you think that you qualify for an emotional support animal, who should you go to for help?
You have to get an ESA letter from a mental health professional with an active license in your state. A standard doctor may be enough, but the doctor needs to be qualified for mental health assessments, so your general practitioner might not be appropriate.
If you see any kind of therapist (even a marriage therapist or an addiction therapist), they can decide whether or not you qualify for an emotional support animal.
Social workers, psychiatrists, and psychiatric nurse practitioners can also determine whether or not you qualify.
If you’ve been having trouble finding a mental health professional who’s willing to assess you, you can see if you qualify for an emotional support dog here.
Where Can My Emotional Support Animal Go?
Again, it’s important to remember that emotional support animals and service animals are not the same. While service animals can go almost anywhere that their owners can go, this isn’t true for emotional support animals.
When you get your ESA letter, you can use it to convince a landlord to allow your support animal to stay with you, pet rent or pet fee-free, in your apartment. This is also true for apartments that don’t allow pets as long as the ESA wouldn’t put an undue burden on the landlord.
While you were once able to bring emotional support animals on flights fee-free, this is no longer true. Contact your airline of choice to ask them if they have specific ESA options for you and your animal.
ESAs are not allowed in public places like grocery stores. Shop owners can ask you to leave.
Do You Need An Emotional Support Animal?
If you think that you meet the ESA qualifications, it might be time to talk to a licensed mental health professional about your options. Your animal offers you support and comfort. If it’s essential for your mental health, you deserve the paperwork that says so.
Protect your mental and emotional health by getting a “prescription” for your furry friend.
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